Music is Hard 38: Scale

This week:
Tim provides anecdotal evidence of composers writing an increasing number of short works. Is this a trend that should concern us? What is the importance of scale to our perception of new works?

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  • Hey guys – I thought the discussion of short works vs. long “epic” works was very cool. Being a guitarist, it’s a discussion I’ve heard before. Both our instruments are kind of new comers – we really didn’t start getting pieces until the late 19th century. One of my questions is, are we pissed we’re not getting epic pieces written now, or are we just jealous of pianists and violinist that they have all the huge pieces of all the huge composers? Yes, we have transcriptions of pieces by Beethoven, but we don’t REALLY have pieces by Beethoven.

    I also agree with Dave’s comment about not really wanting to sit through a 20-30 min piece. The major pieces I think we’re discussing were all written long ago, in different cultures – when the world was a very different place. Are long, epic pieces right for 2012 audiences? I know that question can open a giant can of worms, but I’m still asking it. My own opinion is that they’re almost always not right for today’s audiences (I’m speaking of brand new pieces here). However, I can understand Tim’s complaint about always hearing 6-8 min works that have virtuosic outer sections and meandering middle sections – it’s a legitimate complaint. Again, a similar complaint can be made for the guitar world – it’s very much the same.

    There was some discussion that it takes a special kind of person to write the epic piece, but also that neither of you have heard any recent epic pieces that held your attention (I’m right in line with Dave’s assertion that the most recent long piece that held his attention is the Rzewski). So, I guess another question that I have is, are epic pieces a part of our current collective consciousness? Are they as currently relevant as the shorter, more concise piece of music? Are we as composers writing epic pieces just to try to live up to what Beethoven did? I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but I think they’re legitimate questions.

    Anyway, cool discussion – looking forward to next week’s show!